Former U.S. International Frankie Hejduk Finds Himself In An Ideal Situation With The LA Galaxy

Defender Is “Really Cool” With Getting Back To His Roots

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Photo Credit: 
LA Galaxy

CARSON,
Calif. – It was late last November when Frankie Hejduk learned the Columbus
Crew were not going to pick up his contract option, and the 36-year-old
mainstay and long-time team captain admittedly was thinking the worst.

But his
demeanor changed dramatically less than a month later when his rights were
acquired by the LA Galaxy in a trade with Sporting Kansas City, who had
selected him in the first round of Stage 2 of the MLS Re-Entry Process. Hejduk
soon signed a one-year contract with the Galaxy and still is coming to grips
with his good fortune.

“I have a
big smile on my face,” he said Wednesday with the Galaxy in the first week of
preseason training. “The sun is shining and the weather is sweet.”

Hejduk, who
was born in La Mesa
and played collegiately at UCLA, is reunited with Head Coach and General Manager
Bruce Arena, who coached him at the 1996 Olympics and 2002 World Cup. Hejduk
began his professional career in 1996 as a seventh round draft pick of the
Tampa Bay Mutiny and served the last five seasons as captain of the Crew,
including Columbus’
MLS championship season of 2008. He has 12 goals and 197 career MLS games and
has made 85 appearances with the U.S. national team, for whom he has
scored seven goals.

PHOTOS: Frankie Hejduk Gallery

“Frankie’s
a good player,” Arena said. “At his age, he’s if not our fittest player he’s
one of our top two or three."

“He gives
us a lot of experience. He can play anywhere in the back, as well as wide
midfield. With the addition of Frankie he certainly helps us.”

Hejduk, who
turns 37 in August and has long been regarded as a fitness fanatic, said he
hopes to keep playing “as long as I can.”

“As long as
I’m competitive and I feel like my legs are still under me and I don’t feel I’m
hurting the team I’m going to play as long as I can,” he said. “I love the
sport, I’ve been doing it for a number of years now. I still feel competitive,
I still feel healthy, I’m still fit, still running and I’m looking forward to
challenging the guys.

“It’s going to be a fun year.”

Hejduk, who
politely declined to talk about the reasons for his surprising release from the
Crew –“We’ll keep that between me and the club,” he said – understandably is
deeply thankful to get a new start at The Home Depot Center.

“For me,
it’s an ideal situation,” he said. “To come back and end my career where it
started, getting back to the roots and everything is really cool. My friends
and family getting to see me play is awesome.

“What I’m
looking forward to with this team obviously is nothing less than a
championship. I didn’t come here to not win a championship.

This club has some big-time tradition and I want to be a
part of that.”

Hejduk said he is ready to help out wherever he’s asked.

“Wherever I’m needed, that’s where I’m going to be,” he
said.

“Whether
that’s a reserve role or coming off the bench or helping out wherever I can.
I’m here for the team. Wherever Bruce wants to put me I’m all for it. The main
thing is to be a veteran, help all the young guys out and be positive. Be a
good locker room guy and push these guys and try to win a championship.

“I love
Columbus and all. I loved my time there … it was incredible, to be honest. The
next stage is here. Things happen, that’s MLS. Now I’m concentrating on the
club that wants me here and to be a part of a championship team.”

The Galaxy will open the 2011 MLS season on Tuesday, March 15 when they
head to Seattle to take on the Seattle Sounders FC at Qwest Field in MLS
First Kick 2011, presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods. That game, which
will kick off at 6:30 p.m., will be shown live on ESPN and ESPN
Deportes, as well as online at ESPN3.com. The Galaxy will then host the
New England Revolution in their home opener at 5 p.m. on Sunday, March
20 at The Home Depot Center. Tickets are available for that match
through the Galaxy Kickoff Pack, which includes four tickets and two
Galaxy blankets, starting at $96.  BUY NOW

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